Drone update – what’s new?

In the world of drones, developments are always ongoing. With technology for UAVs really ‘taking off’, there is always something new to talk about.

Earlier this month, for example, the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea featured 1,218 drones. In a spectacular pre-recorded performance, the aerial vehicles took flight to form the five Olympic rings, which represent the continents of the world competing for glory in this iconic sporting event.

This display also garnered a Guinness World Record for the most drones used in a single performance.

Like the symbolism of the rings themselves, the synchronicity of the drones as they seamlessly form this iconic arrangement help to convey the harmony and passion for competitive sport among each country taking part. From the perspective of aerial photography, this display demonstrates how drones have advanced from providing practical support in various sectors, such as construction, towards fulfilling more creative functionalities.

Indeed, as the record-breaking Olympics performance makes clear, varied application of these vehicles are inspired. Incredibly co-ordinated and aesthetically impressive, such displays provide new means of expression in and of themselves.

A screenshot of the video recording the spectacular drone display as part of the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Above: a screenshot of a video showing the spectacular Olympic drone display, featured on BBC Sport.

As we discussed in our previous update, drones have revolutionised photography in terms of what can be achieved. Practically, drones are much easier and more cost effective to deploy in this line of work than helicopters are. They also enable photographers to push the boundaries in scope and scale, although this can be curtailed somewhat by certain flight regulations.

Despite this, drones continue to show promise. For instance, they have been deemed a potentially environmentally-friendly alternative to road-based deliveries. This is advantageous for companies like Amazon and Google, who strongly advocate the use of UAVs to revolutionise the services they offer. As Joshuah Stolaroff, an environmental scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found, drones can deliver certain items faster and with less impact than lorries and would make a notable difference to the total greenhouse gas emissions that the transport sector is currently responsible for.

Of course, there are limits to what items drones are equipped to handle but as a large majority of Amazon’s deliveries weigh less than 2.5kg, it seems a fruitful initiative for the online retail giant to pursue.

It is not only the retail industry that are benefiting from drone flight. Earlier this year in Australia, a drone carrying an inflatable rescue pod was deployed to rescue two swimmers who got into difficulty off the coast of Lennox Head in New South Wales.

As the BBC reported, the drone was able to assist the struggling swimmers in a matter of minutes, while lifeguards could have taken three times as long to reach them. Another positive of this scenario was that the entirety of the rescue was recorded by the drone’s camera, which can now be used to inform and educate others on how aerial vehicles can be used as an incredibly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment.
Regardless of the pros and cons, drones are certainly at the forefront of innovation in various sectors and it is exciting to await future developments.

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